The Toronto Maple Leafs announced Wednesday that they have recalled forward Carter Ashton from the Toronto Marlies of the AHL. Ashton was previously acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning at the trade deadline for defenseman Keith Aulie.
Ashton has a goal and an assist in three games since joining the Marlies, 20g-17a for the year.
Forwards Joffrey Lupul (Wrist) and Colby Armstrong (Nose) were both injured last night against the Boston Bruins, thus Ashton’s callup. It is unknown at this point if and where Ashton will slot in to the lineup tonight against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
This is the Leafs’ 4th and last callup allowed after the trade deadline. The first two were used on Matt Frattin and Jake Gardiner so that they were eligible to be on the Toronto Marlies clear day roster. The third was used to recall forward Jay Rosehill. The Leafs may only recall a player at this point in emergency situations.
As our friend Super Mario would say, “Yahoo!”.
I happened find that exact word leave my mouth in that loveable tone after the Leafs finally got back in the win column, and who better to get back on track against than Montreal. I was out for dinner for the first period and a half, but was able to conspicuously stream the radio feed with one speaker in my ear as to not miss anything. Finally, we were able to put forth a complete 60 minute effort and grab that first win for Mr. Randy “Kiddie” Carlyle. With the blue and white down by 1 in the first, Browny stepped up big in the first with a seismic tilt against Staubitz, which seemed to spark the team. The coaching change was really noticeable in the ice times of certain players, and I especially liked the move of the big bodied Steckel onto the third line. Matt Frattin had a great game and seemed energized by the vote of confidence given to him by the new bench boss. The MacArthur – Grabo – Frattin line was clearly favoured by Carlyle and accounted for all of the leafs goals with Grabo netting a couple timely beauties late in the third. The offence wasn’t the only part of the Leaf’s game that returned to form as The Monster came up with some timely saves to keep the Leafs in the game and eventually hold on to the win. The biggest difference I saw in our game was the desperation the Leafs played with in the last couple minutes and was epitomized my Lupul’s diving blocked shot.
For now at least, it seems that the Leafs have found their game, and hopefully they can keep it going against Boston on Tuesday. Which by the way would be a really great time for Kessel to get over his inconvenient, but totally reasonable fear of Zdeno Chara, and bury a few in the back of the net against his old team. As of today however, Leaf nation let out a collective sigh of relief last night (that apparently raised CO2 levels in Toronto by 15%), and praise Randy Carlyle for getting this team off their losing streak.
Now we can finally answer the question posed by notorious Leaf fan Mike Myers many years ago…
Do I make you Randy? <– Click it
The Leafs have finally ended their losing streak, and it happened in new coach Randy Carlyle’s first game. Coincidence or not, the Leafs needed the win badly if they had any hope of making the playoffs this season.
The game started at a torrid pace – a mix of speed and physicality, and a dash of oddity – and saw the Habs strike first, on a tap in by Montreal’s Erik Cole. At this point, the Leafs were in a bit of disarray as Jonas Gustavsson had stumbled a few times outside of his crease.
Still, the Leafs were able to stay the course, and escaped the period down only one. During the first, you could see the Leafs were fired up, and an emphasis was definitely placed on the physical game. Every player was finishing his checks, and it culminated in a Mike Brown – Brad Staubitz tilt (Brown left the game at this point, unknown at this point what his status is).
Prior to the game, everyone who commented on the hiring said that Carlyle is a big line-matcher. Tonight was solid proof of the matter, as Carlyle used essentially three lines with regularity. Carlyle’s favourite line tonight was the Matt Frattin – Mikhail Grabovski – Clarke MacArthur line. He began allotting them the majority of icetime in the first period, and it paid dividends by the game’s end.
Frattin would score the tying goal in the second period, and the line would strike twice more when Grabovski put the Leafs up by two late in the third.
I made a tweet comment after Frattin’s first hit of the game that he would become a Carlyle favourite and I believe I may be on to something here. I highly doubt Frattin returns to the AHL any time soon (or until the Leafs are mathematically eliminated).
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A few notes on Carlyle’s coach style:
- Did not respond to Montreal’s goal by staying stationary and yelling “Let’s go”.
- Was teaching the entire game, showing players what to do between whistles/TV timeouts.
- Constantly vocal on the bench, pacing up and down.
- Line matching. Hardly used his fourth line, unlike Wilson.
- Called the Tim Connolly – David Steckel – Nikolai Kulemin line ‘safe’ with their ability to play ‘safe minutes’. Is this the advent of a true checking line? Maybe. Connolly really isn’t cut for it though.
- Notably did not throw goaltending under the bus (OK, that one wasn’t really fair)
- Apparently spoke to players after the game, something Wilson never did.
It’s far too early to be proclaiming success already, but I’ll say this: the Leafs looked fresh tonight, and it seemed as if a different team was playing. I could be blind, or just delusional from the novelty of Carlyle, but it certainly looks better – for now.
Listening to Maple Leafs’ Vice President of Hockey Operations, Dave Poulin, brought about some interesting thoughts as we wind our way toward this year’s edition of the NHL Trade Deadline. During his conversation, Poulin talked about building a team and an organization as you would a house and property. The analogy is one that speaks to patience and careful planning, something that is necessary for any successful front office staff, when it comes to building a winning product.
Looking at the foundation upon which the house that Burke and Co. has put together, it’s easy to forget that before Burke was brought to Toronto to lead the organization, it would have been difficult to look through the organizational depth chart, and find a solid pillar for the future. Since his arrival, Burke has made a number of moves to improve a talent pool that was on serious life support in terms of young talent. Through drafting alone (something that Burke has taken heat for in his time here), Burke has added first round picks in the likes of forwards Nazem Kadri and Tyler Biggs, as well as the smart, economical defenseman, Stuart Percy from the Mississauga Majors. He supplemented those selections with picks from rounds 2-7 with promising youngsters such as Gregg McKegg, Sondre Olden, Josh Nicholls, and Bradley Ross. Burke and Co. have approached the draft with a clear strategy, adding size and skill to the prospect pool, and for better or worse, fans of the organization are soon to see these selections given the chance to show their stuff at the AHL level.
The most important thing that Burke and his team of executives have done in his 4-year tenure with the Blue and White is add cornerstones through trade. The much-debated trade for Phil Kessel was the first major move that Burke made, adding a cornerstone talent to the organization, in a move that divided the fan base. Kessel’s talent is not in question, and shouldn’t be at this point, given that he currently sits among the top-5 in league scoring. In landing Phil, Burke surrendered two first round selections, and a second round selection to the Boston Bruins, and allowed the Bruins to land Tyler Seguin, Jared Knight and defenseman Dougie Hamilton. The miscalculation of the team’s ability at the time of the trade is well known, and is the subject of the on-going argument among fans as to whether or not the trade was beneficial to the club’s long term success. Whether or not you believe in the move, Burke added the missing piece from the Sundin era, the high scoring winger.
The second pillar that was added was Captain Dion Phaneuf. In a trade that sent pieces like Matt Stajan and Jamal Mayers to Calgary, Burke was able to not only pry Dion, but talented young defenseman Keith Aulie. The addition of Aulie is what sweetened the pot. Calgary was looking to shake up their roster, and Burke was able to turn a mole hill’s worth of talent into a mountain-esque return. In Dion’s time here, we’ve seen the return of his offensive game, as he struggled in the early stages of his Leaf career. Keith Aulie remains one of the organizations top prospects, as he has seen time with both the Leafs and the Marlies, and continues to round out his trade to become a full-time NHL defenseman.
The last player to discuss, in terms of pillars, is one that is currently cementing his status as just that. Young defenseman Jake Gardiner, acquired as the incentive in the deal for Joffrey Lupul, has stepped into the spotlight this season, and is making his case for being a future top pairing defender. Gardiner has the ability to take over the play from the back-end, and on a number of occasions this season, has been the best player on the ice in Blue and White. His skating is some of the best on the team, and at times, Gardiner has displayed poise and patience beyond his years. As is the case with any young player making the transition to pro hockey, Gardiner has had problems with turnovers, and getting caught on the pinch, but increased trust and TOI awarded to him by the coaching staff has certainly paid off.
Honourable mentions would go to talents like Matt Frattin, who at times, has shown NHL ready ability on both the rush and the back check. Joe Colborne is yet another, added in the Kaberle trade, as well as Jesse Blacker, a defenseman chosen 58th overall in the 2009 draft.
Although not all of the young talent made this article, the point of the matter is this: Burke and his team have made great strides to not only build a foundation, but build pieces around it. Leading up to the deadline, in one week’s time, there will be a lot of pressure on management to acquire a key piece to help get the club into the playoffs for the first time since the lockout. As Poulin stated this morning, the key to the process is patience and poise, knowing that a move cannot be made unless it improves your house going forward in the long term. Given this model, it’s hard to imagine Burke mortgaging the future for Rick Nash, even if bringing home the GTA native would see his statue built in the front yard.